Weekend tech reading: The 21-year-old behind Oculus VR, a 3D-printed house, Ubuntu 14.04 beta

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ubuntu, oculus rift, 3d printing, 3d printer, oculus vr, ubuntu 14.04

The virtual genius of Oculus Rift On March 26, Facebook announced that it was purchasing Oculus VR, the company Luckey started in 2012, in a deal worth $2 billion. The social-networking giant is getting top-flight engineering expertise as well as the technology behind the company’s flagship and only product, a virtual-reality headset...Two billion dollars is a lot of money -- a head-snapping amount -- for a social network to pay for a two-year-old hardware company with an ultra-nerdy name that has yet to ship a consumer-ready product and whose founder is still only 21. Time (related news/commentary: Facebook wants to compete with Google Glass, Carmack comments on the buyout in this blog post, Michael Abrash leaves Valve to be Oculus' Chief Scientist, Ford toys with the Oculus)

Meet the manic miner who wants to mint 10% of all new bitcoins In a couple of large buildings near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington, where hydroelectricity is cheap and plentiful, Dave Carlson oversees what he says is one of the largest Bitcoin mining operations on the planet. At any given time, Carlson's goal is to account for seven to 10 percent of the entire world's Bitcoin mining as measured by processing or hashing power, he said. At the moment, he's slightly below that target but doesn't expect to remain below it for very long. The operations are fueled by thousands of mining rigs containing more than 1.4 million BitFury mining chips, while Raspberry Pis loaded with custom software direct traffic on each rig. Ars Technica

How sleep deprivation drives the high failure rates of tech startups I work in my sleep now. I fall asleep most nights writing and rewriting opening lines and first paragraphs in my head. And every morning before I wake, I am somehow still writing sentences in my head, twisted into my sheets while comparing arguments and searching for counter-arguments that could undo a whole story. This is probably not a good habit to be in, but taking work along to bed has become commonplace in the age of the self-funded permalance entrepreneur. A 2008 survey found 51% of small business employees saying they work in their sleep, and of those close to 70% try and apply the things they’ve dreamt about to their jobs the following day. Forbes

The 3D economy Last May, Cody Wilson produced an ingeniously brief but nuanced manifesto about individual liberty in the age of the ever-encroaching techno-state-a single shot fired by a plastic pistol fabricated on a leased 3D printer. While Wilson dubbed his gun The Liberator, his interests and concerns are broader than merely protecting the Second Amendment...But if armies of Davids really want to transcend the state, there are even stronger weapons at their disposal: toothbrush holders, wall vases, bottle openers, shower caddies, and tape dispensers. All these consumer goods and more you either can or will soon be able to produce using 3D printers. Reason (also, the first 3D-printed house is being built -- video below -- and Gizmodo talks about disposable, 3D-printed drones)

Abstract ideas don't deserve patents The Constitution gives Congress the power to grant inventors a temporary monopoly over their creations to "promote the progress of science and useful arts." But in recent years, the government has too often given patent protection to inventions that do not represent real scientific advances. On Monday, the Supreme Court will consider when the government should grant patents to processes that are based on abstract ideas. In a world where technology is rapidly changing, the Patent and Trademark Office has been flooded with applications that claim to have invented ways to solve problems. But it can be hard to discern if these creations should be patentable. The NY Times

The inside story of MIT and Aaron Swartz The mysterious visitor called himself Gary Host at first, then Grace Host, which he shortened for his made-up e-mail address to "ghost," a joke apparently, perhaps signaling mischievousness -- or menace. The intruder was lurking somewhere on the MIT campus, downloading academic journal articles by the hundreds of thousands. The interloper was eventually traced to a laptop under a box in a basement wiring closet. He was Aaron Swartz, a brilliant young programmer and political activist. The cascade of events that followed would culminate in tragedy: a Secret Service investigation, a federal prosecution, and ultimately Swartz's suicide. The Boston Globe

Software upgrade at 655 million kilometres Software upgrades are something we are all too familiar with – almost every day small fixes, or patches, are ready to download to our computers, phones and tablets. Mostly these are a minor inconvenience, but sometimes something goes wrong and you're left with a computer that won't boot. As annoying as this is, the worst case scenario is usually a re-install of the operating system. But what if you're upgrading the software on an instrument flying onboard a spacecraft 655 million km from the Earth? The answer is in a careful design of the instrument followed by testing, testing and more testing on the ground! ESA

Ubuntu 14.04 final beta download: A much-needed upgrade for LTS users The next version of the world's preeminent Linux distro, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, is almost upon us. Late last night, the final beta of 14.04 Trusty Tahr (an African wild goat) was released, with the final build due on April 17. Trusty Tahr is the first long-term support (LTS) build of Ubuntu in two years, and is thus contains a lot of exciting features that thousands (millions?) of Ubuntu 12.04 users can’t wait to get their hands on. Because Trusty is an LTS, most of the changes are fairly conservative in nature. ExtremeTech (download here)

Dueling developers go to war over Duke Nukem's fate Them Duke boys are at it again. Gearbox Software, the developer that eventually released the long-in-development Duke Nukem Forever, and 3D Realms, Duke's original creator, are currently fighting it out in court over the question of whether 3D Realms has the rights to release a new game starring the king of all vaporware. In its complaint filed in February, Gearbox says that it acquired the Duke Nukem property from 3D Realms in 2010 and that a recently announced game called Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction is unauthorized. Wired

What really happened to THQ's unfinished games? Games are a weird business, with Hollywood celebrity-level consumer interest dogging projects staffed by hundreds of people. Marketing is a gamble, confidentiality is a nightmare, and PR is hampered by a lack of autonomy and the fickle, unpredictable engagement of a hair-trigger audience. The result of all this is that there's so much we just don’t know. We’re spoon fed hundreds of soundbites a week, but the goings on behind the curtains are thoroughly obscured. It can be years or even decades before the stories come out. VG24/7

Big data: are we making a big mistake? Five years ago, a team of researchers from Google announced a remarkable achievement in one of the world’s top scientific journals, Nature. Without needing the results of a single medical check-up, they were nevertheless able to track the spread of influenza across the US. What's more, they could do it more quickly than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Google's tracking had only a day's delay, compared with the week or more it took for the CDC to assemble a picture based on reports from doctors' surgeries. The Financial Times

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